Dr. Gene Hatfield, Professor Emeritus of History, passed away on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017 at the age of 71.
Hatfield taught for 32 years at Clayton State University before retiring in 2008.
He was part of a group of four history professors—which include John Kohler, Brad Rice and Welborn—who came to Clayton State in its early years as a junior college. For the next thirty years, the four men played a major role in shaping academics within the College of Arts and Sciences.
“When he retired in 2008 at the beginning of my first year at Clayton State, Gene Hatfield was among a handful of faculty who had taught here since the mid-1970s. I cannot think of another faculty member in the College of Arts & Sciences who has had a greater impact on the larger community beyond the University,” says Dr. Nasser Momayezi, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “He was heavily involved in promoting his discipline, and he was firmly engaged in serving others. I will miss Gene. We all will.”
Hatfield joined the faculty in 1976. He served as the co-founder and first director of the University’s Honors Program and toward the end of his career was named chair of the Department of Social Sciences.
During Hatfield’s tenure, he saw the Clayton State become a four-year university, expand its academic offerings to include bachelor’s and master’s programs, charter an athletics program and construct new facilities to enlarge its footprint in the Morrow, Georgia area.
He reflected on those changes at the onset of his retirement, acknowledging that the impact of change on campus takes time to recognize.
"At times, change seems slow and meandering, but then, when one looks back, it is possible to see the magnitude of the change, which, often at the time, went largely unnoticed," Hatfield told the Clayton News Daily. "I have watched Clayton State move from a junior college to a university offering graduate programs. In itself, the process of becoming a university represents dramatic change."
Retirement did not stop Hatfield from contributing significantly to Clayton State University. For several years, he served as president of the Clayton State Retiree’s Association.
Hatfield also wanted to leave a lasting mark on the College of Arts and Sciences by recognizing professors for their commitment to service, scholarship and academics at the University. In 2008, the same year of his retirement, he and his wife Carol provided a large endowment to establish the Gene Hatfield Annual Service Awards.
Students remembered him as a connoisseur of American politics and Georgia history, whose presence was felt not just on campus but in the local community.
“I've known Dr. Hatfield for a number of years, and he's an outstanding individual,” said 1976 graduate James N. Baker to Clayton News Daily during Hatfield’s 2008 retirement. “Dr. Hatfield is someone who has been a big part of south-metro Atlanta over the past decades."
Indeed, Hatfield was as much a student of history and government as he was an active participant in it.
A stalwart in Democratic politics, he was a former chair of the Clayton County Democratic Party and was twice elected as a delegate to the Democratic National Conventions—1984 in San Francisco and 1988 in Atlanta.
He also served as chairman of the Sixth District Congressional Committee and member of the State Executive Committee.
Hatfield had a front row seat to the development of Atlanta into an emerging metropolis in the South and international gateway.
He was appointed to the Atlanta Regional Commission in 1990, the city’s 10-county intergovernmental and regional planning authority, and was one of its longest serving members when his term ended in 2010.
Hatfield’s love for history led him to join several history-related civic groups including the Georgia Association of Historians. He was an original member of the Georgia Civil War Commission, a state-mandated body that preserves and promotes the buildings, sites, battlefields and structures of the Civil War.
He also served as a member of the Friends of the Georgia Archives.
The memorial service for Dr. Gene Hatfield will be held on Saturday, February 11, 2017, at 11:00am at First Presbyterian Church Jonesboro, 1842 Lake Jodeco Road.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Gene Hatfield Annual Service Awards at Clayton State University or First Presbyterian Church of Jonesboro.
More information about the services can be found here.